Derek Carr pens goodbye letter to Raiders, should Washington pursue?

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Carr pens goodbye letter to Raiders, should Washington pursue? originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington

Let the speculation begin.

Las Vegas quarterback Derek Carr unofficially confirmed the end of his Raiders' tenure on Thursday, sharing a heartfelt goodbye letter to the only franchise he's ever played for.

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Carr, who turns 32 in March, is under contract for three more seasons. However, the belief is Las Vegas will look to trade the quarterback this offseason after he was benched for the club's final two games of the year. The Raiders can also release Carr this offseason for just a $5.2 million cap hit, per OverTheCap, a relatively small fee for moving on from the QB.

If (and when) Carr becomes available this offseason, he'll instantly be one of the best potential veteran options for quarterback-needy teams. The 2023 free agent class is headlined by Ravens star Lamar Jackson, but Baltimore will almost certainly franchise tag him if the two sides still are unable to reach a long-term deal. Outside of Jackson, Tom Brady (obviously) is the only other soon-to-be free-agent quarterback that has a better resume than Carr.

In what has seemed to become an annual tradition, the Washington Commanders are back in the market for a quarterback after the Carson Wentz experiment failed. Rookie Sam Howell impressed in his lone start to conclude the 2022 campaign, but Washington will still need to address the position this offseason.

During his season-ending press conference on Tuesday, Commanders general manager Martin Mayhew said the club plans to explore all options this offseason when looking to upgrade at quarterback, including the veteran market.

"You pretty much have to enter every season looking at the entire landscape of what's available," Mayhew said. "I thought we did a really good job of that last year... We will do the same thing this year. We're not going to rule out acquiring a vet. We'll go through the entire landscape of who's available, we'll evaluate them, and we'll get to a consensus on somebody."

For the Commanders, Carr is the best veteran available that's also a realistic option. And, there are reasons that suggest Washington could make a push to land the Raiders' signal-caller.

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In-house, the Commanders already have a prominent coach that is familiar with Carr. Washington defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio spent three years as the Raiders coach from 2015-2017; Carr was his starting quarterback in each of those seasons.

Carr's two best NFL seasons came under Del Rio's watch, too. In 2015, Carr threw for a career-high 32 touchdown passes and earned his first Pro Bowl nod. The following year, Carr went 12-3 as a starter, threw for 28 touchdowns, just six interceptions and finished third in MVP voting. He was also voted to the Pro Bowl in 2017, Del Rio's final year coaching the team.

When Carr was benched by Las Vegas in late December, Del Rio was asked about his former quarterback. Del Rio, who's rarely shy about his opinions, had only positive things to say about the passer.

“I like Derek," Del Rio said. "We won 12 games with Derek and had a really strong season with Derek, really three pretty good seasons with him. I think he's a good player. They're doing what they feel they need to do but I certainly appreciated having him and the things we were able to do together.”

Del Rio's connection is far from the only reason the Commanders would consider pursuing Carr.

After falling short of the playoffs once again, head coach Ron Rivera knows the club must show improvement in the standings next season. The head coach fired offensive coordinator Scott Turner this week, marking the biggest staff change he's made in his three years running the show. Washington's offense must take a step forward in 2023 after only averaging 18.9 points per game.

In Rivera's three years, Washington has lacked stability at quarterback. Eight different passers have started a game over the past three seasons. It's hard for any offense to be successful with that much change at the sport's most important position.

Carr has his own flaws, but his track record suggests he's an upgrade over every quarterback that's taken a snap for Washington since Rivera arrived. Plus, he's been extremely durable for the entirety of career. At the very least, Carr would provide some stability at quarterback the franchise has severely lacked.

Yet, a ton of the same arguments were made in favor of why the Commanders acquired Wentz via trade last season. That move, obviously, backfired. One year later, the Commanders are in the exact same spot, searching for a quick fix.

In 2022, Carr had the best supporting cast of his entire career. The Raiders traded for Davante Adams, arguably the NFL's best wideout, who proceeded to top 1,500 receiving yards. Running back Josh Jacobs lead the NFL in rushing yards. Yes, both Hunter Renfrow and Darren Waller missed time, but they each were effective when on the field.

Despite all the talent the Raiders surrounded Carr with, he turned in one of his worst professional seasons to date. His 2.8% interception rate was a career-high, while his completion percentage (60.8) was the lowest since his rookie year. Las Vegas had high hopes for the 2022 campaign, but it ended with a third place finish in the AFC West.

So, even if he is an upgrade of the Commanders' most recent QBs, there's no guarantee Carr would succeed in Washington, either.

Las Vegas, of course, will look to trade Carr before outright releasing him. With numerous teams expected to be in the quarterback market, it's more likely than not they'll find at least one trade partner. Carr does have a no-trade clause in his contract, but based on his goodbye letter, it seems he'd be willing to waive it.

In order for the Commanders to acquire Carr, it will require giving up assets. Washington traded two third-round picks for Wentz last spring. A similar package for Carr, if not more, seems reasonable.

Trading for Carr also means taking on his contract, one that is far from team-friendly. Carr's cap hit in 2023 is $34.8 million, per OverTheCap. That number rises to $43.8 million in 2024 and $43.2 million in 2025. There's no guaranteed money remaining on Carr's deal, but there's no reason to believe he'd restructure or take a pay cut if he were to succeed with his new team.

Washington has attempted to solve its quarterback woes by bringing in a veteran in each of the past two offseasons. Ryan Fitzpatrick got hurt after 16 snaps in 2021. Wentz went 2-5 as a starter in 2022 and melted in a must-win Week 17 contest. Neither move worked.

Mayhew said Washington plans to explore all options at quarterback this offseason. After going down the veteran path the past two years, it might be best to travel down a different road this time around.